All the ((((Robins))) and all the (((Daves)))
Surprising musical uses songs by the Grateful Dead
Updated: Friday, May. 27, 2005 - 4:43 PM
SAN JOSE, Calif. - The frothy pop of ABBA and the glossy nostalgia of the Beach Boys might be perfect for the New York stage, but a musical with songs from the Grateful Dead?
Though it may sound as likely as Robert Preston playing Hacky Sack, that's just what's planned by San Jose-born playwright Michael Norman Mann. "Shakedown Street," his new play featuring songs of the Grateful Dead's Jerry Garcia and Robert Hunter, will receive its world premiere at the New York International Fringe Festival on Aug. 12.
The musical spoofs gritty pulp novels and black-and-white detective movies of the 1940s with a reinterpretation of Dead favorites such as "Truckin'" and "U.S. Blues." Hunter, the Grateful Dead lyricist who worked closely with Jerry Garcia, also has written two new songs, in addition to dusting off and inserting four previously unreleased tunes, some written by Greg Anton of the group Zero.
"Shakedown Street," set in San Francisco in the summer of 1941, traces the contorted path of Duke Bishop, a down-in-the-dirt gumshoe who encounters a femme fatale lounge singer, a crooked judge, an oily political wannabe and a dishonorable cop while attempting to crack an art-theft ring.
"The Grateful Dead is a band that interprets these songs in one fashion, and Robert Hunter and I are interpreting them in another - for the stage," Mann says. "I feel Hunter is a poet, before a lyricist. I worked with the lyrics as poetry, rather than thinking about these as Grateful Dead songs."
Adds Hunter, "It's my hope that the songs stand on their own right. The Grateful Dead's performances were only one way to interpret them, possibly the best, but only one way."
Mann developed his collaborative relationship with Hunter while writing "Cumberland Blues," a dark, "Seven Brides for Seven Brothers"-style family drama set in a dying coal-mining town at the turn of the 20th century. The musical, which featured such Dead songs as "Touch of Gray" and "Friend of the Devil," had its world premiere at San Jose Stage Company in 1998 before moving to San Francisco later that year. Hunter also composed new material for that show.
"Shakedown Street" becomes the latest musical in a long line cobbling songs of pop artists into a stage show. The insanely popular "Mamma Mia," the ABBA jukebox-as-musical comedy, has lured fans of the group into theaters. Other productions include "Good Vibrations," the Beach Boys songfest; Billy Joel and Twyla Tharp's "Movin' Out"; and "Lennon," the musical tribute that premiered in San Francisco in April.
Since "Beatlemania" hit Broadway in 1977, playwrights and pop stars have teamed to showcase the music of everyone from shock rockers (Kiss) to cult bands (the Shaggs). But many of the shows were little more than revues. By contrast, "Shakedown" uses classic Grateful Dead songs to propel a plot. Though Mann is credited with the show's libretto, he and Hunter collaborated on several scenes designed to seamlessly introduce Hunter's new songs.
"Michael and Bob have done something so much more classical and original with the material that it would be hard to put `Shakedown Street' in the same category with jukebox musicals," says Alan Trist, manager of Ice Nine, the Grateful Dead's in-house publishing company, which licenses use of the band's material.
For Mann, the "Shakedown Street" project grows out of a lifelong love of the Grateful Dead, whose members came from such Palo Alto, Calif.-area groups as the Thunder Mountain Tubthumpers and Mother Macree's Uptown Jug Champions in the 1960s. Mann saw the Grateful Dead perform 50 times while studying theater arts at University of California-Santa Cruz and later living in San Jose. (He has since moved to Hollister, Calif.) "Shakedown Street" continues his creative relationship with Hunter, which still has him reeling.
"It's so satisfying to be able to create something for the person who has created so much for me over the years," Mann says. "Hunter and Garcia and the band gave me thousands and thousands of hours of music and good times. It's nice to be able to give a little bit of it back."
Book by Michael Norman Mann
Music by Jerry Garcia and Robert Hunter
Where New York International Fringe Festival
When Aug. 12-28
Tickets $15; (888) 374-6436, www.FringeNYC.org
Sweet pix Here
And a link to Jerry's Birthday bash
Also a link to The 101 Report.com which has some info and a whole lotta links to jambase community...
Friday June 3rd
At The Sweetwater!
On Friday, June 3rd, at 9:30 PM, the next edition of the monthly bluegrass series Bluegrass Gold will take place. The show is produced by Larry Carlin and Carltone Music, and co-sponsored by the Northern California Bluegrass Society. The headliner will be The Waybacks.
The Waybacks are back! Possessed of dazzling instrumental chops and an absolute mastery of acoustic musical styles, The Waybacks have taken North America by storm. Whether mesmerizing audiences at intimate venues or creating a sensation at major festivals, the band has brought its onstage alchemy to enthusiastic fans far and wide. From newgrass and western swing to jug band and jazz, from folk and fiddle music to improvisational excursions that defy categorization, Waybacks music is wild, energetic and unpredictable. With their stellar musicianship and innate sense of adventure, they stand in good company with the few bands at the forefront of New American acoustic music. Based in the San Francisco Bay Area, The Waybacks are Stevie Coyle, James Nash, Chuck Hamilton and Joe Kyle Jr. Fiddler Evan Price of the Turtle Island String Quartet will be sittin' in for this show.
4 hours ago